This was a match which summed up both sides’ seasons.
Fulham played some exciting, expansive football at Craven Cottage yesterday; the visitors played some ordinary, limited football. Yet after 93 minutes the score read Fulham 1-2 Tottenham as Spurs turned around their mediocrity to snatch three points and the hosts capitulated embarrassingly to lose yet again.
Tottenham maintained their third place in the Premier League. Fulham remain in the relegation zone after Harry Winks’s last-gasp header won it for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Fernando Llorente could have been back in his native Spain by now, but an injury to Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min’s involvement in the Asian Cup means the 33-year-old finds himself off the transfer market and with the responsibility of leading the line.
It did not go well at Craven Cottage. First he gave the hosts the lead with a clumsy own goal before struggling in his link-up play with Dele Alli and Erik Lamela.
Spurs altered their style to suit the big Spaniard, but he was way off the pace and missed opportunities that Kane would have buried. Botched headers in either half from pinpoint crosses showed a man snatching at chances and lacking in confidence.
Kane is expected to be out until early March. Despite the result, Pochettino needs to come up with a different plan, because Llorente is not the man to build a strategy around.
Power of Babel
Fulham’s signing of Ryan Babel last week was greeted with a fair bit of amusement – not helped by his red hair – but after his debut fans aren’t laughing any more.
Having returned to England citing “unfinished business”, the former Liverpool forward troubled Spurs’ back line throughout, finding an immediate understanding with Aleksandar Mitrovic.
He failed to score from two presentable chances and was substituted just 55 minutes in, suggesting he might yet not be fully fit, but he was Fulham’s best player and could just provide the cutting edge to help Claudio Ranieri’s side stay up.
Considering Fulham spent over £100m in the summer transfer window – including sizeable fees on two central midfielders – the sight of Calum Chambers occupying the middle of the park is a slightly bizarre one.
But the Arsenal loanee has grown into the role of late, with his range of passing and intelligence improving to match his natural athleticism.
Chambers was impressive yesterday, winning duels and spreading play to the flanks with composure. On another sickening day for Fulham, he was one positive.
Kane (20) and Son (12) had scored 32 of Spurs’ 46 Premier League goals this season prior to the match, and with Llorente off the pace, the goalscoring burden fell to Alli.
Spurs were sent out early for the second half by Pochettino and, having been fired up, it was Alli who did what he does best, timing a late run towards the back post to head in Christian Eriksen’s chipped cross.
Alli has many talents, but his adaptability might be his strongest suit. With numbers thin on the ground, Pochettino will desperately hope that the hamstring injury which forced him off isn’t too serious.
Harry Winks spent the vast majority of the match trying to dictate tempo from the middle of the pitch. He completed 91 of his 102 passes as Spurs tried to find a way through Fulham’s deep-set defence.
His role at the base of Pochettino’s midfield has grown in importance this season, but you still don’t expect the 5ft 7in midfielder to be the one powering in a last-minute header.
Yet as Spurs toiled in the final moments it was Winks who stole in at the back post to meet Georges-Kevin Nkoudou’s deep cross. It was a valuable goal which showed the added strings to the bow of one of the Premier League's brightest young talents.